The Alabama, USA woman who confessed to faking her own abduction resulting in a massive two-day search by police, flashed a smile in her mugshot as she was hit with charges in the headline-grabbing hoax on Friday, July 28.
Carlee Russell, a 26-year-old nursing student, was charged with one count of false reporting to law enforcement and one count of falsely reporting an incident after she “disappeared” on July 13.
Both counts are class A misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of one year behind bars and a $6,000 fine, Hoover Police Chief Nick Gerzis said at the afternoon press conference.
Russell turned herself in with her attorney, Emory Anthony, at Hoover City Jail within an hour of the press conference, which was held at 1:30 p.m. local time, Gerzis added.
She was booked and subsequently released after she posted $2,000 bond, he continued.
Attorney General Steve Marshall also spoke briefly, and commended the “monumental” work of the Hoover Police Department during the 49 hours Carlee was believed to be missing and the subsequent investigation.
Marshall also said his office plans to monitor the investigation for additional charges.
“We don’t see this as a victimless crime,” he insisted, noting the “significant hours spent” and “resources expended” on Russell’s behalf.
“We intend to fully prosecute this case, and look forward to working with the Hoover Police Department moving forward,” he concluded.
A video released Friday showed the former spa employee looking distraught when leaving Anthony’s office alongside her parents earlier in the day.
The brief video was the first time Russell had been seen since she turned up at her parents’ home on July 15, two days after she was first reported missing.
Russell first vanished on the night of July 13, shortly after she phoned police to say she was stopping by the side of the road to rescue a baby she could see crawling along the side of Interstate 459 in Hoover.
She then re-emerged two days later, with surveillance footage showing her walking alone on the sidewalk toward her family’s house.
When she returned home, her family called 911 and police arrived to find her “conscious and speaking,” despite dispatch reports that she was “unresponsive but breathing.”
After just one police interview, Russell’s bizarre tale of being abducted by a white man with orange hair quickly fell apart particularly after police revealed that she googled the kidnap-themed action film “Taken” and the AMBER Alert system in the days before her disappearing act.
After a week of denials, Russell’s attorney, Emory Anthony, revealed on Monday his client had fabricated the story about seeing the baby and spun a web of lies about being kidnapped by a balding white man who took pictures of her naked before she was able to escape.
“There was no kidnapping,” Emory said in a prepared statement on Russell’s behalf, which was read during a Monday press conference. “My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person.”
At Friday’s press conference, Gerzis admitted that police still “have no idea” where Russell was during the two days she was missing.
Gerzis also acknowledged that the public might be disappointed to hear that Russell is not facing more serious charges for her troubling stunt.
“[Russell’s] decisions that night created panic and alarm for citizens of our city, and even across the nation,” the police chief, who was dressed in an eye-catching light blue plaid suit, said.
He added that he plans to push state lawmakers to “enhance legislation for when someone falsely reports kidnapping or another violent crime.”